Summer celebration along Downtown’s South Division Avenue
Another sunny August in Grand Rapids marks the most exciting First Fridays event of the season: the 14th annual artist’s market, hosted by the Avenue for the Arts. First Fridays is a monthly event held in the business corridor along South Division between Fulton and Wealthy Street on (you guessed it) the first Friday of every month. The addition of the outdoor Market transforms First Fridays into a bazaar featuring locally owned businesses, art, music, and community and has traditionally taken place in both June and August First Fridays, but this year The Market will take place on just one special day, August 4th.
Larger-than-life Emcee Sarah Jean Anderson returns for the fifth year to host the event. Anderson, who has been involved with the Avenue for the Arts since 2009, says about her experience: “It changed my life as an artist because I was able to experience firsthand the support our community has for its artists. As a newcomer to the art scene in GR back then, I felt welcome there. It motivated me to create more, knowing that there was this great support and love for art here in my town.” Sarah Jean will be introducing our two local bands this year, Lipstick Jodi and Miss Atomic.
Lead singer of Lipstick Jodi, Karli Morehouse, echoed the feelings of community, saying, “I think it’s really cool that the vast majority of artists in Grand Rapids seem to have a good perspective that one of us succeeding means we all succeed, there’s not this limited amount of success to go around. If we work together, we all move up and we all do better.” Lipstick Jodi is a local four person pop/rock band consisting of Karli Morehouse on guitar/lead vocals, Luke Rockhold on drums/vocals, and Jamie Baarman on keys/vocals, and Camille Hoorn on bass. Local radio station WYCE booked the bands playing over the three hour evening bringing to light emerging musicians, interested in community.
Bassist Camille Hoorn is excited about reaching new audiences, “Oftentimes music is relegated to nightlife, not necessarily elevated to the level of art on a frequent basis. I think it’s cool to be included in something that’s focused on art, it re-marries music to art in the way that it is already but people tend to forget. Also because so many people are not involved in the night-life scene. Somebody with their kids isn’t always going to be able to make it out to a bar, but they will be able to walk with them downtown to see what’s going on so it gives us the opportunity to reach people that we wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise.”
First Fridays provides visitors access to aspects of the neighborhood that aren’t often accessible to visitors. “When you think of Heartside, I’m sure gardens, healthy food, and a place of respite aren’t the first thing that come to mind, but that’s exactly what we have here,” says Nicole Grabowski, Dwelling Place community gardener. “The Dwelling Place gardens have been such a positive and integral part of resident life at these properties, that we want to share it with the community at large.” Grabowski has been a community gardener in the Heartside Neighborhood since December 2016, and will be leading the Tour of Hidden Downtown Gardens during First Fridays. “The impact of the gardens on our residents has been incredible. I’ve seen residents gardeners take ownership of this project, form supportive relationships with fellow gardeners, and residents have an immense sense of pride in the work they have done thus far.” Grabowski’s tour is a chance to meet resident gardeners and three downtown gardens, the tour departs and ends at the Neighborhood Happy Hour. With limited space on the tours and departure times at 5:30 and 7 p.m. interested participants should register as soon as possible.
From live music provided by bands selected by the radio station WYCE to over 35 different local artists lining the sidewalks of South Division to sell their artwork to innovative exhibition experiences the night is yours to explore. From the UICA’s show “Art is a Drag,” Bend Gallery’s “Patterns,” Cerasus Studio’s “Grounded,” Spiral’s “Collateral Chaos,” and more, there is no shortage of art and music to experience. First Friday maps can be found at the UICA and other participating sites and locations. This is an amazing chance to experience and support local art and music.
When asked about the importance of events like The Market, Sarah Jean responded, “We are all growing together. I can’t imagine our city without Avenue for the Arts. I love seeing what people bring to the Market. In the same city block you can buy handmade clothing, beauty products, jewelry, artwork of all kinds — and you can actually talk to the person who made it! That’s so valuable.”
Kick your evening off at the Neighborhood Happy Hour and then grab a paintbrush and participate in a mural painting, attend an exclusive Tour of Hidden Downtown Gardens, visit gallery exhibitions, and splurge at pop up shops and sales along the Avenue for the Arts. If you haven’t participated in a First Friday event yet, it is a monthly event series takes place on the First Friday of every month along south Division from Fulton to Wealthy. The galleries, stores, and other venues hold new showings of artwork, sales, pop up shops, live music, workshops, and other fun events from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.
The Avenue for the Arts is a neighborhood title for the South Division commercial corridor. We are residential, commercial and nonprofit groups working together in a creative community. We are residents in Heartside, and active participants in shaping change in our neighborhood. In 2005, we choose the Avenue for the Arts as a title to represent our commercial corridor and the projects and events that we create. Because the Avenue is powered by volunteers guest writers create our Rapidian content. Special thanks to Justin MacAuley, (Avenue member and Freelance illustrator) for his coverage of First Friday August.